The director of Disney’s The Lion King has revealed he looked to David Attenborough documentaries and the animated pig Babe for inspiration for his stunning reimagined version of the classic.
Jon Favreau said the film Babe made him realise what was possible.
He said: “I connected so much with the little pig and there’s no human expression… mostly it’s the voice and it’s the way it’s edited, and the pig when it’s happy jumps up and down like a pig does, it doesn’t smile, it doesn’t cry tears of joy… it’s the emotion that you would get watching a documentary.”
The original Lion King is considered a crown jewel in Disney’s collection. Favreau has remade it using game-changing technology.
He worked with the Oscar-winning visual effects artist Adam Valadez and his team of over 1,000 artists at MPC in London’s Soho using virtual reality and the latest visual effects and animation techniques to present the characters and sets in a way that appears to be photo-realistic.
”Instead of just treating this as an animated film, we created all the environments and all the performances and brought them into VR and set cameras using a live action film crew so the processes that we used emulated live action, even though every environment was completely digital and animated.”
Adam Valadez, who also worked with Favreau on Disney’s remake of The Jungle Book, told Sky News that over the years they’ve been getting better and better at creating highly detailed organic life on screen and this comes from a combination of technical skill and the vision of directors like Favreau.
He explained that they research everything seen on screen meticulously, travelling to Africa to ensure this “photo realism” continues throughout the movie.
Every single plant and how they are arranged and the proportions of “landscape, from rock to dirt, to trees to grasses, needed to be just right”.
To ensure the animals were perfect they used a technique perfected on The Jungle Book which saw each constructed inside out.
He said: “You have to figure out where the bones are, where the muscles are, how the skin sits on them and how the fur sits on top of that, and you have to think about how every muscle in the face works because that’s how you get expressions in the face.
“So we have to move through every anatomical part of the animal and construct it from the inside to the outside.”
The film boasts a stellar cast – James Earl Jones reprises his role as the voice of King Mufasa and is joined by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Beyonce Knowles Carter as Nala, Donald Glover as Simba and John Oliver as Zazu.
Ejiofor said it seemed the right time to revisit this classic 25 years on from the original.
He told Sky News that because everything was so realistic this time round, they had to be mindful of how it would effect audiences, particularly children seeing the iconic stampede scene.
“I feel like the animated version for some reason is so visceral, whereas there is something subtler and gentler in this version, it’s not quite so brutal, in a way.
“I think it’s done with a view to all those people 25 years ago who watched the animated and thought, ‘What, oh wait’, so I think it’s really well constructed so that it’s still within the context of the family dynamic.”
The Lion King is Disney’s third remake this year and they’re continuing to look to their past in the future with more reimagined classics in the pipeline.